News » Whistler

Still no news on funding for iconic roof



In a dream world, almost $60 million would be spent on the ice-skating rink, the iconic roof covering it and six buildings situated on Whistler’s future Olympic Celebration Plaza.

But where that money will come from — and how much of the plan will become reality — are the big questions.

Martin Pardoe, the municipality’s parks planning manager, said this week the project has not secured any significant funding. As a result construction dates remain ambiguous.

If the municipality can raise $20 million by the end of April, building will begin immediately to get the rink and roof ready for 2010. But if not, construction will be put on hold.

In the quest to find funds, the municipality has talked with senior levels of government, other provincial jurisdictions, and potential corporate and private donors.

“Mr. (Economic Development Minister Colin) Hansen is coming (to Whistler) on Wednesday, and we have a special meeting with him,” added Mayor Ken Melamed. “That is one of the events that will occur before we come to a final decision.”

Council has been clear that the money for this phase of Lot 1/9 construction will come from external sources and not the pockets of Whistler taxpayers.

Also, the $60 million figure is not set in stone.

To make the amenities a reality, the municipality is considering toning down the roof/pavilion, which was designed by Vancouver-based Bing Thom Architects.

“We are considering an alternative pavilion, something more modest than what has been put forth to the community before,” said Pardoe.

A modified form of the ice rink could also be on the table. The current cost for the rink alone is $2.3 million.

Another option municipal staff are considering is relocating buildings from the proposed Neighbourhood of Nations to the Lot 1/9 site after the Games and having the buildings serve arts, culture and community needs. The Neighbourhood of Nations would be a collection of houses built by different nations to showcase their culture during the Olympics.

Together, the skating rink, iconic pavilion and buildings compromise the final phase of the Lot 1/9 development.

The first two phases have secured financing and defined construction deadlines.

The pre-Games phase — which includes servicing the site and building the performance infrastructure and amphitheatre seating — will begin next month and is projected to cost $11.2 million. The federal government will contribute $5 million through its Live Sites capital funding; VANOC will contribute $3 million and the municipality will draw on the new hotel tax received through the revenue sharing agreement with the province to make up the $3.2 million balance.

Construction will be done by October 2009.

The Whistler Arts Council building and the VANOC information booth will be relocated during this phase.

Following the Olympics the municipality will again draw on the new hotel tax to fund $2.5 million worth of reforestation, landscaping and installing play and water features on the site.

According to the mayor, the municipality will also pay the ongoing maintenance costs for Celebration Plaza. However, these operating costs should not cost Whistler taxpayers any money.

Said Melamed: “Because it is a tourist amenity, we believe we can use funds from the revenue sharing agreement as opposed to tax dollars.”

At least one citizen is concerned about the cost to build the Celebration Plaza.

Bill Overing said he couldn’t believe how much the total cost for the structure will be — given that the sledge hockey arena originally slated for the Lot 1/9 site would have also cost approximately $62 million.

He added that he planned to speak to council during the Public Question and Answer Period on Monday night, but the municipality’s website incorrectly stated the meeting’s start time at 7 p.m.